The International Grains Council lifted its hopes for world
wheat production this year, noting benign conditions in many countries, but
cautioned that low levels of snow cover in many areas meant an enhanced threat
The intergovernmental group, which last month forecast a global
wheat crop of about 686m tonnes in 2014-15, raised its estimate to 697m tonnes.
That crop would rank second only to that this season's "exceptional"
707m tonnes - and indeed come from increased plantings, with the next harvest
expected to cover an area of 224.2m hectares, up 2.5% year on year.
"Despite the increase in area, total wheat production is
tentatively expected to decline," the IGC said.
"Yields are likely to return to more average levels
following some outstanding results this season."
Nonetheless, the forecast implies a higher yield hopes than
expected last month, when the group forecast harvested area at 224.9m hectares.
"Winter wheat planting for the 2014-15 crop year has been
completed in the northern hemisphere under generally favourable weather
conditions," the council said.
In the European Union, the biggest producer, "unseasonably
warm weather with showers has provided generally favourable conditions for
dormant winter crops", while in India "abundant monsoon rains" have underpinned
In North Africa, "prospects for winter grains remain favourable,
with drier conditions allowing remaining fieldwork to finish," the council said.
"The soil moisture in most regions is regarded as adequate,
except for southern parts of Morocco, which require more precipitation."
'Vulnerable to frost
However, the IGC also cautioned over the threat that a
freeze could yet pose to crops in areas such as the European Union and former
Soviet Union, where warm weather has melted snow.
"Limited snow cover has left the crop vulnerable to frost
risk in some regions."
In the EU, "major winter wheat areas" lacked snow cover, "potentially
increasing the risk of frost damage, notably in Finland, Sweden, the Baltic
States and Poland".
The comments follow a report from the European Commission
warning that warm weather had delayed "hardening" in winter grains, the process
in which they develop tolerance to low temperatures.
"A decrease in frost tolerance has been observed in southern
France, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and some other areas of the Balkan Peninsula where
a large part of the crops is only slightly hardened," the briefing said.
"Little or no low-temperature tolerance has been reached in the
coastal region of the Mediterranean Sea."
The IGC's comments came in details of a report in which it
raised by 9m tonnes, to 707m tonnes, its estimate of world wheat production in
2013-14, reflecting upgrades to Australian, Canadian, Chinese and former Soviet
The forecast for world stocks at the close of the season was
raised by 7m tonnes to 188m tonnes, representing a rise of 9% year on year.
Signally, the forecast for stocks in major exporting
countries, a figure to which prices are particularly sensitive, was upgraded by
5m tonnes to 56m tonnes, a 17% rise year on year.